Open Relationships: The Dos and Don'ts of Making Them Work
The number of people I've known who either have never heard of an open relationship, or who are extremely sceptical of them and what they entail, is astonishing.
Essentially, an open relationship is one where one or both parties are allowed to be physically (or emotionally, or both) involved with other people outside the relationship.
Being currently in one myself, I understand how after being taught your whole life that monogamy is the only way forward, wanting a relationship setup a little outside the norm can be daunting and hard to admit to.
Even once you have decided that this is the path you wish to go down, actually getting on and doing it can be hard to navigate at first.
To help you out, I have come up with a list of the dos and don’ts of making an open relationship work, whether you are already in one yourself, or trying to work out how the heck to even get started…
DO: Set Out What Aspects Are Open
There are no automatic rules on what "open" actually means. Every relationship is different and has different needs, therefore different people will have different views on what should be open or not.
Think about why you want to be in an open relationship with your partner, as opposed to being single or in a monogamous relationship.
Is it just the physical aspect? Do you wish to experience more people generally, or is there a specific type of sex you wish to try that your partner cannot provide? Or do you crave emotional openness too? Do you want other people to be involved as f*ck buddies, or do you want other people to be emotionally close, almost like a second partner?
Being direct and straightforward about this will ensure that there are clear boundaries about what you are allowed to do, meaning that you and your partner will remain on the same page.
Also, don't be afraid to be specific regarding certain sex acts if you feel strongly about them, and, of course, for safety reasons, use protection at all times.
DO: Establish How Much Knowledge You Would Like to Be Equipped with
When discussing the terms of openness, you also need to decide how much of each other's extracurricular activities you wish to know about. The most common choice is between telling everything that happens and nothing that happens.
If you tell everything, then you need to be comfortable telling your partner that you have been with someone else and vice versa and possibly being specific about what you've done – sometimes couples even have to ask each other before engaging with someone else.
Another option is don't ask, don't tell. This means you two go about your outside business and keep it to yourself, unless someone desperately wants to know something. Here, you need to be comfortable with the fact that you don't know entirely what your partner could be up to. Either way, make sure it is an arrangement you BOTH feel comfortable with, and be consistent with whatever you choose.
DO: Be Honest About How Much You Can Separate Physical Acts and Emotions
The fact is, a lot of people find it hard to have truly casual sex. Be absolutely honest with yourself!
Do you really think you can engage in sexual relations with other people and still feel 100% into your partner? Do you truly believe you won't get jealous of the fact your partner could be having orgasms with somebody else?
Don't put yourself through unnecessary hardship – if you have any doubts about how much you can handle, perhaps the open relationship route is not for you.
DO: Be Honest with Parties Outside the Relationship
If a prospective partner asks if you are single, don't say yes. That's a lie.
Inform them of your relationship status. Explain what an open relationship is if need be. Allow them to be informed of what they are getting into beforehand.
DON'T: Be Afraid to Change the Terms if You Are Uncomfortable
This is hugely important in my opinion. Just because you started out on a certain set of rules does not mean they are set in stone forevermore. Your views of what you feel comfortable with and what you want the freedom to do may change over time as you grow into your open relationship.
If there is a rule you set out originally that after a while you want to tweak, that's OK! As long as you discuss with your partner what you wish to change and why, it should ensure that you will still be in the type of relationship you want. Remember, the main point of a relationship is happiness, not obligation.
DON'T: Let Others' Opinions Affect Your Own
As much as we shouldn't let them, others' opinions sometimes influence us and make us question what we are doing, even if what we are doing is perfectly fine and makes us happy.
You are unfortunately likely to receive scepticism and questioning about commitment to your partner. Handle these comments however you wish. Just remember that this is YOUR relationship and YOUR happiness. Don't let someone else's opinion wreck that.
Blogger supercutesecret is an established sex and relationships blogger, who studies Maths & Statistics at the University of Warwick, and in her spare time, discusses tips and advice on relationship forums.
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